1910 Pink Evening Gown with Black Lace and Cream Sash and Gloves based on The Intrusion of Jimmy by P.G. Wodehouse

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I just finished listening to The Intrusion of Jimmy by P.G. Wodehouse. I’ve mentioned it before on this blog, but I love listening to Wodehouse, because his stories are light and simple enough that I can miss parts if I get distracted by housework or chatter, but engaging enough that they keep my mind from dwelling on the dullness of dishwashing. Anyways, I’m always up for a story where boy meets girl, everything that can possibly cause boy maximum humiliation and trouble happens, but all comes right in the end.

The thing I liked best about this book was Jimmy’s character, because although a lot of Wodehouse’s heroes are rather more like Jimmy’s friend, Lord Dreever – the kind of laid-back fellow who pre-empts criticism by describing himself as “a bit of an ass” – Jimmy himself was curious, capable and generous. Now, the first two of those are rare enough, but he also seemed to have a darker side than any of the other Wodehouse heroes I can recall. At the beginning of the book, Jimmy makes a bet that he can break into someone’s house, and later that night a burglar happens to break into his own apartment; Jimmy disarms him, convinces him that he’s an infamous European jewel thief and gets the man to take him along on a burglary, all without turning a hair. It’s not like he views it as a lark; rather, he takes the whole thing quite seriously, breaking into someone else’s house almost as much out of curiosity as he did from the desire to win the bet. I guess his background as a reporter made his ability to keep so calm plausible, but still, that’s all pretty cold-blooded. Things like that made me feel that, as much as I liked him for his curiosity and wit, there was something about him that wasn’t quite right, and even though he never expressed the desire to steal so much as a rhinestone brooch, there was something about him that gave me the feeling that he very well could go in for a life of crime if it was interesting enough. It turns out that in the original story that the book was based on, Jimmy really had been a jewel thief! I somehow feel like he makes more sense to me now, although I can’t really hold his past incarnation against him.

Jimmy falls for a lovely girl named Molly, and taking the standard meet-cute love-at-first-sight Wodehouse pattern to new heights, he doesn’t ever actually talk to her during this process, but just admires her over the course of a five-day trans-Atlantic trip. I always figure that the Wodehouse heroines have the most marvelous, flattering, feminine clothes possibly available to humans, because eligible young men are always falling instantly in love with them, so it’s a disappointment for me that Wodehouse seldom describes dresses in detail. The book is from 1910, so here we have a 1910-style gown, with black lace over a pink dress. I do like the dresses I’ve seen from this year – the shape seems like a nice balance between the Edwardian shape and the straight-up-and-down lines that are coming.

By the way, I’ve never thought to look up what P.G. stood for; it turns out to be “Pelham Grenville.” Might have to swipe that one for our firstborn.

Prismacolors used: Kelp Green, Pale Sage, White, French Grey 10%, 20%, 50%, 70%, Light Umber, Dark Umber, Tuscan Red, Black, Cream, Pink Rose, Clay Rose

Princesses of Sweet Rhyme and Pure Reason’s White Gown and Crown from The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster

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I reread one of my favorite books,The Phantom Tollbooth by Norton Juster, the other day. I love it because I always notice something new every time I read it. This time around it was the bells on the Soundkeeper’s dress — I should like to paperdoll her outfit now, but I’m not really in the mood to draw a million little bells tonight. As you see, I was in the mood for something much easier, which is the dress that Rhyme and Reason wear. Since they wear about the same thing, the dress can be for either of them. Make Sylvia Rhyme and Iris Reason, or the other way around, as you please.

Don’t forget, I’m liveblogging (or as Eleanor has it, live-dolling) the Oscars this Sunday. I figure that will consist of drawing red carpet dresses until my fingers drop off. To get everyone in an Oscar mood, let’s have an Oscar poll. Check out the oscar.com Costume Design nomination information if you need a refresher.

Halloween Costume Series Day 14: Christine Daae’s Star Princess Masquerade Costume In Black, Blue and White with Black Domino Mask

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Kathleen asked, earlier this month, that I do one of Christine Daae’s outfits from the Phantom of the Opera, which was a timely request because I recently got the musical soundtrack from the library. (One of the sad things about the times when I am not drawing is that I must mourn the Outfits which Could Have Been. I listened to the original text many months ago, and then I forced Brian to sit with the recent movie version with me. That he endured as a proof of his love, but he was much more enthusastiac about the next Phantom spinoff we watched, The Phantom of the Paradise. Tagline: “He sold his soul for rock’n’roll.” Anyways, I do regret that I didn’t do a paperdoll series of these Phantoms and Christines. But I digress.)

So since I got the soundtrack, I’ve been singing along — portions of my brain which went on strike during geometry class apparently devoted themselves thoroughly to memorizing the whole musical, it seems — even getting Brian in on the fun, singing Phantom duets along with him to which we make up the words. He’s joined in with me a couple times as I trilled “Music of the Night” in the shower, scaring the living daylights out of me each time (“didn’t you ever see Psycho?” I asked) and gamely followed along with Raoul’s part to “All I Ask Of You.” (“How can anyone LISTEN to this? No one will FIND you? Your fears are far BEHIND you?” he asks. “Just be quiet and sing it,” I reply perfectly logically and reasonably.)

Of course, for Halloween I must do a Masquerade dress, the first step of which was blithely breaking the “no research” rule once again. The movie dress was a pink concoction; I read somewhere it was supposed to represent the influence of the scarlet-garbed Phantom, but I personally didn’t think it quite worked that way — I thought it just looked too conventional, kind of like “Totally Ingenue Barbie!” although certainly it was very beautiful. The stage outfit was rather more what I would prefer, for a masquerade ball — a blue and pink silver-starred ballet outfit, referred to as her “Star Princess” dress. Here you can see a picture of the costume design sketch, some images from the stage and a fan’s reproduction of the dress, and this forum post includes a discussion of the dress and links to pictures of it from different productions. I liked the shape, but didn’t want to just copy one of them, and so looked to the original text for further inspiration. Now, the thing I should have quite liked to paperdoll from the original text was the Phantom’s “immense red-velvet cloak, which trailed along the floor like a king’s train; and on this cloak was embroidered, in gold letters, which every one read and repeated aloud, ‘Don’t touch me! I am Red Death stalking abroad!'” But as for Christine, the only thing described is her black domino mask, and re-reading that scene, it is such a very dark time for her… So here she is, as my Star Princess for the masquerade, but not the stars giving way to dawn as on the stage; the night has laid claim to this Christine.

We are coming to the end of the zombie slaughter poll, so vote…

Cornflower Blue 1927 Dress with Handkerchief Skirt inspired by Lucia in London by E.F. Benson

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Sorry, sorry, I’ve been playing with my bike too much and not drawing enough, I know. But you see, as the new toy novelty wears off, I return to my Prismacolors…

I am reading Make Way for Lucia now, which is a collection of the Mapp and Lucia novels all in one doorstop-sized book. I listened to Queen Lucia first as an audiobook from Librivox, and then, since that book stops so abruptly, was dying to have more, more, more. Luckily there is more more more — Make Way for Lucia includes seven books total. They’re quite funny in a dry, snarky kind of way; as a matter of fact, it occurred to me more than once that it’s a shame the word “snark” itself wasn’t used in the 1920s, because there are so many places where a speaker says something described as “ironical” or “sarcastic” and the proper word can be only “snarky.” So far it is about a small English community and its queen bee, Lucia, and although living with the gossipy, snarky, hypocritical residents of Riseholme would be a sort of hell on Earth for someone like me, socially clueless hermit that I am, it’s delightful to read about it. The characters are mostly so quite dissembling, thoughtless and haughty that I rather hope that they get their comeuppance, and the author then kicks them around quite so thoroughly. So thoroughly, actually that I start to feel bad for them and hope they don’t get hurt too badly, even if it was coming to them, because their gossip and vanity is really all very harmless and none of them are bad, just silly. There’s a comparison to a Jane Austen novel here (especially because now I’m listening to Persuasion), if she was a shade more malicious and didn’t focus on romance.

Anyways, the main character is Lucia Lucas, who in Queen Lucia portrayed herself as a sort of refined lady born in the wrong age who worshipped Shakespeare and Beethoven and had a perfect horror of modern contraptions such as gramophones and London, and she contrived so that the whole town seemed to revolve around her. In the book I’m reading now, Lucia in London, she and her husband inherit money and property in London and suddenly her hatred of the city, modern art and music and so on simply vanishes. She even — oh my! — shingles her hair and wears short skirts. When I was listening to Queen Lucia I thought I should do an Elizabethan paperdoll outfit in deference to Lucia’s despising of modernity (and, also, to my inability to figure out when the book was set, my normal attention to details fixing a book in time quite baffled by Lucia’s quirks and Riseholme’s sleepiness), but now that she has gone to London I thought I had better get with the times as well.

The style doesn’t fit my poor Sylvia or Iris well, as they have no access to the kind of undergarments one would likely wear with such a dress, but oh well. It is based off of a McCalls pattern from 1927, which is when the book was published.